Series 18: York @ Bridgeport

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared in Monday’s York Dispatch.

Imagine this type of work environment.

When you’re doing your job adequately, no one really notices — people rarely acknowledge you even exist.

But when you screw up, people become irate. Suddenly, you’re a bum. They start throwing around words like unemployment and termination. It gets to the point where you’re afraid to walk to your car in the parking lot at night.

So who lives this thankless life? A postal worker? A pizza delivery boy? The copy machine repair man?

No, we’re talking about professional umpires. And not the ones who pull in $300,000 a year at the Major League level. It’s minor league umpires — specifically ones who work in the Atlantic League — who are continually ragged on by fans and disrespected. Is the criticism fair? Well, this issue carries quite the debate.

First off, Atlantic League umpires are under a microscope lately after last week’s episode in which the York Revolution’s Jason Aspito went off on umpire Matt Beaver. Aspito bumped Beaver with his chest — an episode that led to a one-game suspension. But the incident also raised concerns about the overall quality of umpires in the Atlantic League.

Just how bad do fans think the league’s umpires are? In a recent poll on Atlantic League Baseball News, a well-respected Web site, a whopping 44 percent of fans classified the league’s umpiring as “below average.” Another 36 percent selected the “poor” classification and only 2 percent of people out there consider the umpiring “excellent.” This poll included only 131 votes, but those numbers are staggering.

Yet, I simply can’t agree with this over-the-top consensus. Sure, there are umpires in the Atlantic League who are clearly bad. But like in anything, it’s a small group that creates a stigma for the rest of the lot. And poor individual relationships with particular umpires don’t help things either.

For example, you won’t find York breaking bread with Beaver, who tossed four Revs last season. And the Revolution’s relationship with umpire Edwin Ortiz is also shaky. Ortiz has already sent three Revs to the showers early this season and Manager Chris Hoiles has called Ortiz “a joke.”

But with what these umpires are paid — close to what each player makes (a max of $3,000 a month) — they deserve more respect.

After all, would you treat the pizza delivery boy with this kind of disregard?

Bridgeport Notes: Barry Hertzler is currently fourth in the Atlantic League in ERA (3.41), although the three men ahead of him (John Halama, Dave Gassner and Brian Lawrence) have all been signed by affiliated clubs. Hertzler out-dueled York’s Corey Thurman in a 2-1 victory last week. … The Bluefish team ERA has ballooned to 6.21. … Jesse Hoorelbeke is now two homers behind Long Island’s Ray Navarrete for the league lead. He has 12 on the year. … Former Revolution outfielder Travis Ezi is hitting .244 in his last 10 games. … Ezi, Hoorelbeke and Calvin Pickering have all struck out 47 times this season. … Bridgeport had a 12.79 ERA combined for the seventh, eighth and ninth inning in its last 10 games entering Sunday.

York Notes: The Revs are 16-17 against Liberty Division opponents this year. That’s a fary cry from the club’s 6-17 record against the Freedom Division. … York’s pitching staff entered Sunday atop the Atlantic League in strikeouts (372). York struck out 27 Bridgeport hitters in last week’s series at Sovereign Bank Stadium. … York is averaging 5.4 runs per game in its last 23 games with a .277 team batting average. … York has recorded 15 hits or more five times this year. Three of those instances have come in the last week. … The Revs are only hitting .244 as a team with runners in scoring position. … York is 8-21 on the road and 0-3 at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard. … Chris Ashby was hitting .357 with 11 runs and six RBIs over his last 10 games entering Sunday. It looks like the Revs have found a No. 3 hitter. … Kennard Jones is hitting .174 in his last five.

Pitching probables: (York’s starters first)

Game 1: Aaron Rakers (3-5, 5.46 ERA) vs. Rafael Bergstrom (3-3, 6.37 ERA)

Game 2: Aaron Myette (4-5, 6.07 ERA) vs. Eric DuBose (2-2, 3.92 ERA)

Game 3: Frank Castillo (0-0, 6.43 ERA) vs. Matt Pike (5-2, 5.82 ERA)

Game 4: Dave Gil (1-2, 5.88 ERA) vs. Ryan DiPietro (1-3, 7.20 ERA)

*Randy Flaum photo.

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5 Responses

  1. I can’t speak for all of the other teams in the Atlantic League, but in my experience at the Blue Crabs games at Regency Furniture Stadium (say that fast 10 times), I have seen a fair amount of bad calls. Being so close to the action, it’s not hard to discern an obviously bad call. For example, I saw an ump call out a player, when the 1st baseman never even touched the bag. I have seen an ump overturn a bad call (they said the center fielder trapped the ball, but it was obvious from the stands he caught it). After seeing my share of games this season, I would say that in most games, I find one ump’s calls to be suspect.

  2. Welcome to the site Robert.

    You’re surely not alone in your opinion of the umpiring in the Atlantic League. And I don’t disagree completely.

    But I was trying to play devil’s advocate a bit and defend a group of guys who truly don’t need to be criticized with what they’re paid.

  3. I agree that Atlantic League players and umpires are underpaid but that doesn’t give them the right to do a shoddy job. Heck, I’m underpaid but I still take pride in my work.

  4. Agreed.

    And I’ve also been thinking about this from another angle: players in the Atlantic League are far from perfect, right? Many strike out too much, others lack velocity on their pitches and very few play the field adequately. So can’t a similar analogy be used for umpires? If they were the best of the best, they’d be calling games in affiliated ball.

    Not an excuse, you’re right. But my point is whenever an umpire makes a mistake, it’s magnified because it’s usually a game-altering one — that’s the nature of umpiring. But when a player screws up, often it doesn’t have a huge bearing on the final score.

    Just something to think about.

  5. If a player plays poorly, he gets the boot.

    And I don’t think it’s an issue that can’t be fixed.

    I have heard that the league is having problems hiring umps, and have resorted to hiring local umps. I can see where THAT practice could cause some of the lousy umping.

    But, if the Atlantic League wants to be taken seriously, it HAS to have good umping. Those guys make and break the games.

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